As podcast listening continues to reach new heights – more than six in ten Americans have now listened to a podcast – Edison Research says weekly and monthly listening dipped slightly this year as post-pandemic life emerged. That ended seven consecutive years of podcasting taking a larger share of spoken word audio listening. In the 2022 Spoken Word Audio Report, podcasting’s share of spoken word audio slipped to 21% -- a one point drop from a year ago when pandemic media habits were still holding strong. Taking the long view, however, podcasting’s share of time with spoken word audio content has increased by 163% during the past eight years.
In broadcast circles, public radio has been aggressively targeting podcast listeners and that effort has paid off in their reach. Edison says nearly a third (31%) of time spent with podcasts is with shows produced by NPR and other public radio outlets.
The report, produced by Edison and NPR, shows broadcast radio still has the biggest share of spoken word listening at 47%. But that continues an eight-year trend of smaller numbers for AM/FM as the places to find spoken word content continue to grow. Audiobooks has emerged as a growth story during the same period. This year, Edison says 11% of spoken word listening went to the format among those aged 13 and older.
Even as podcast growth stalled this year, the format still has a strong connection with an age group that has typically been hardest for spoken word content producers to reach. Edison says 39% of Gen Z spoken word listening is to podcasts. That is compared to a 26% share for Millennials and 16% for those 35 and older.
The reverse is true for broadcast radio. It accounts for a majority 58% of the spoken word content listened-to by those over 35, compared to 17% for radio for Gen Zs and 27% for Millennials.
“For these young people, their day centers around their phones. If you want your content to find them, it needs to exist there,” Edison VP Megan Lazovick said. “But the good news is because they are so connected to their phones, there are plenty of ways to reach them through social media, podcasts and other forms of digital media,” she said on a webinar last week.
Media platform is not the only difference among the young and the old. There are also some variables in content choices, although not as many as one might expect. Edison says Comedy was the top podcast genre among everyone aged 18 and older. But while News ranked second among adults 25 and older, among 18- to 24-year-olds Society & Culture was second. Yet both genres were among each age group’s top five genres, with True Crime and Sports also among the most listened-to podcast categories, regardless of age.
National Public Media VP Lamar Johnson said the differences are consistent with research NPR did a few years ago to understand the audience's journey to public radio. “We found that the peak time of adoption tended to be in the 20s,” he said. “Listeners talked about coming to NPR at that time in their life, because they wanted to be more informed about what's going on in the world, wanted to be a more engaged citizen, and wanted to be able to talk intelligently with friends and colleagues about the current issues of the day.”
The contrasts among favorite podcast genres helps explain some of the trends Edison is seeing in which formats of spoken word content are most popular. Overall, it says news and information content has a 40% share of listening, followed by personality-based talk (37%) and sports (12%). Those figures have remained fairly consistent through the eight years of the Spoken Word Audio Report.
The analysis shows that age is a big factor in content preference. Gen Zs overwhelmingly lean toward personality-based content, making up nearly half (49%) of their spoken word consumption. But among adults 25 and older, news and information content has the biggest share.
Interestingly, sports performs the best among people aged 35 and older while the audiobook habit is strongest among younger listeners. Edison says 17% of Gen Z spoken word listening is to audiobooks, compared to 7% for adults 35 and older. “Audiobooks have been increasingly used in educational settings,” Lazovick noted.
The Spoken World Audio Report is based on data collected by Edison for its Infinite Dial report as well as its quarterly Share of Ear survey. The sample for this study was 4,118 people aged 13 and older.
Download the full report HERE.